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The Changeling Prince by Viviane Vande Velde

Review by Lyssa

The Changeling Prince by Viviane Vande Velde is a Fantasy story about a man named Weiland, who has lived his entire life as a slave in the mountain household of the witch Daria. Daria's particular power lies in her ability to transform animals into humans, and such is Weiland: born of a wolf, raised in Daria's household among many others, all changed from wolverine, mouse, bird, bear, lynx, weasel, rat, and wolf. Weiland is highly unsatisfied with his lot in life, but too frightened to take action, as Daria has promised his punishment for such insolence would come in the form of permanent return to wolf-form, and a slow, agonizing death at her hands.

When Daria decides to move from her fortress, down into the nearby city of St. Celia, Weiland can do nothing but hope: hope she picks him to be one of the few to accompany her, as the others will be restored to their natural form and left locked in her abandoned home, with nothing on which to feed but the flesh of their companions. But the trip into town is no smooth jaunt. And so Weiland is introduced to civilized life, tormented by the uncooperative fellows of his company, and the suicide of one of their numbers. The edge this brings to his nerves is only heightened by their misunderstanding of the town into which they've entered, and the unwanted attention this mood, in turn, brings from the town guards.

Things get even worse when Weiland and a companion are commanded to dispose of the body of Daria's latest sacrificial victim: someone who gave Weiland his fair share of trouble, in life. Spied in the act, Weiland is apprehended by the town guard, but spared their justice by the intervention of a smooth-talking theif named Shile. Daria, as always, takes her displeasure with the ruckus out on Weiland. Soon, Weiland finds himself with too much time on his hands, and in the company of Shile, trying to evade the man's questions as much as possible. Meanwhile, Daria has set her sights on the town's duke and his family, spending days on end with them, befriending them. One day, she asks Weiland to accompany her, and he is forced to stand by, thwarted by his mistress' command, as she lures the duke's wife away from her friends, into a gruesome death at the mercy of a pack of wolves. The entire incident only serves to deepen Weiland's already limitless distrust and dilemma concerning Daria. She has shown, through the tragedy, that she can, as he had always thought she could not, change humans to animals. If she can do this, where, when, and how did she learn this skill? How long has she employed it and how many times? What else can she do? What else has she done? It takes Shile's intervention, and that of the duke, for Weiland to find out, and finally learn the truth, many truths.

Rough in places, Viviane Vande Velde's The Changeling Prince is a very good, very exciting, very interesting read, for the author's first foray into adult Fantasy.

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